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Employment Security Department



Media inquiries: media@ESD.WA.GOV

Total claims for unemployment benefits
decrease from the previous week

OLYMPIA – During the week of May 17-23, there were 48,445 initial regular unemployment claims, down 65% from the prior week and 1,497,591 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD). ESD believes the decrease was in large part due to significant fraud prevention measures that were put in place over the past two weeks.

ESD paid out over $494.5 million for 424,995 individual claims.

Unemployment claim type

For week of

May 17-23

For week of

May 10-16

For week of

May 3-9

Regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) initial claims




Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial claims




Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) initial claims




Continued/ongoing weekly claims




Total claims




Since the week ending March 7 when COVID-19 job losses began:

  • A total of 1,996,257 initial claims have been filed during the pandemic (1,252,608 regular unemployment insurance, 397,845 PUA and 345,804 PEUC)
  • A total of 1,130,519 distinct individuals have filed for unemployment benefits
  • ESD has paid out nearly $4.7 billion in benefits
  • 807,071 individuals who have filed an initial claim have been paid

“Our priorities from day one of this crisis have been to get benefits out to Washingtonians who need them quickly and expand eligibility so those impacted can get the help they need,” said ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “In recent weeks, at the same time we have taken aggressive measures to tackle the increase of imposter fraud in our system, we have stayed laser-focused on helping every Washingtonian with a valid claim get the benefits they deserve. Meanwhile, our team continues to work with federal law enforcement to go after the criminals perpetrating the fraud, help the victims and recoup the money. The dramatic decline in initial claims this week is a strong signal that the additional steps we are taking to address imposter fraud are working. We’ve already recovered and stopped the payments of hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims in the past two weeks, and we will continue to reclaim every dollar we can.”

 Below is a twelve-week summary of statewide initial claims filed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis:

Weekly data breakdown

By industry

Industry sectors experiencing the highest number of initial claims during May 17-23 were:

  • Health care and social assistance: 5,313 initial regular claims, down 10,446 (66 percent) from the previous week
  • Retail trade: 4,236 initial regular claims, down 6,272 (60 percent) from previous week
  • Accommodation and food services: 3,765 initial regular claims, down 2,403 (39 percent) from previous week
  • Manufacturing: 3,661 initial regular claims, down 7,128 (66 percent) from the previous week
  • Educational services: 3,109 regular initial claims, down 13,815 (82 percent) from the previous week

By occupation

  • Management occupations:  11,498 regular initial claims, down 57,875 (83 percent) from the previous week
  • Food preparation and serving: 3,754 regular initial claims, down 1,910 (34 percent) from previous week
  • Office and administrative support:  3,689 regular initial claims, down 2,579 (41 percent) from previous week
  • Sales and related occupations:  3,312 regular initial claims, down 1,765 (35 percent) from the previous week
  • Construction and extraction occupations:  3,242 regular initial claims, down 607 (16 percent) from the previous week
  • Transportation and material moving occupations: 2,899 regular initial claims, down 1,297 (31 percent) from the previous week

By county

King County, the most populous in the state saw initial regular claims decrease from 47,126 to 14,371 during the week of May 17-23, down 70 percent from the week before.

Other counties with the largest number of initial claims during the week were:

  • Pierce County: Initial regular claims filed decreased from 16,240 to 6,348 down 61 percent from the week before.
  • Snohomish County: Initial regular claims filed decreased from 15,028 to 5,675 down 62 percent from the week before.
  • Spokane County: Initial regular claims filed decreased from 8,762 to 2,932 down 67 percent from the week before.
  • Clark County: Initial regular claims filed decreased from 5,945 to 2,182 down 63 percent from the week before.

Demographic breakdown – complete charts are provided in Appendix A below (This information is asked during the application process).

During the week of May 17-23:

  • By gender: 50.7 percent (24,567) of the initial regular claims were filed by males while 48.9 percent (23,686) were filed by females
  • By age group: 21.7 percent (10,493) of initial regular claims were filed by the 45-54 years old age group, followed by 20.4 percent (9,877) by the 25-34 years old age group and 20.1 percent (9,717) by the 34-44 years old age group.
  • By race/ethnicity: 62.6 percent (30,331) of initial regular claims were filed by Caucasians, followed by 6.6 percent (3,188) filed by Asians and 6.4 percent filed by Latino/Hispanics (3.087).
  • By disability status: 1.8 percent (859) of initial regular claims were from individuals identified as having a disability, including 0.1 percent (301) who identified themselves as disabled veterans.
  • By veterans status: 4.2 percent (2,020) of initial regular claims were filed by veterans, including 256 initial regular claims from individuals eligible for veterans benefits due to family relations with a veteran

Please see new charts in the Appendix A below.  For complete information of weekly initial claims by industry sector and county for the year to date, also check the weekly unemployment initial claims charts compiled by ESD’s Labor Market & Economic Analysis division. For more information about specific counties, contact one of ESD’s regional local economists.

NOTE: ESD will send out the next weekly new claims press release on Thursday, June 4 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.

Data disclaimer and definitions

Per U.S. Department of Labor regulations, weekly unemployment claims data is embargoed and not available for release until the Thursday following the claim week. 

Initial claims include individuals who filed first-time claims as well as additional claims filed by individuals as a result of a new unemployment event. Initial claims include claims that are still being reviewed for eligibility. Counts for initial claims are not indicative of the number of claims that will result in monetary compensation.

Continuing claims equal continued weeks claimed including a total of all weeks for which benefits were claimed, even though such benefits were not paid or payment status is uncertain or unknown, e.g., waiting weeks, partial weeks, weeks for which penalties are being served and weeks for which a monetary or nonmonetary issue is pending. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is an emergency program established by the federal CARES Act that temporarily expands unemployment insurance eligibility to self-employed workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is an emergency program established by the federal CARES Act that extends unemployment insurance for an extra 13 weeks to those who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is an emergency program established by the CARES Act to increase unemployment benefits for Americans who are out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under FPUC, eligible people who collect certain unemployment insurance benefits—including regular unemployment compensation—will get an extra $600 in federal benefits each week through July 31, 2020. They do not need to file a separate claim to receive this money, it is automatically added to their payment. [NOTE OF CLARIFICATION ADDED ON JULY 13: FPUC is not payable for any week of unemployment ending after July 31, 2020. Since a “week of unemployment” in Washington state ends on any Saturday, the last day to receive FPUC must be on a Saturday prior to the end date in the CARES Act. Accordingly, the last week that FPUC may be paid is the week ending July 25, 2020.]

COVID-19 resources

Washington state Employment Security Department unemployment insurance information for workers and employers

State of Washington’s coronavirus website

Washington state Department of Health public health resources

Labor market web links

Appendix A

Initial regular claims by industry sector

Initial regular claims by occupational group

Initial regular claims by county

Initial regular claims by gender

Initial regular claims by age group

Initial regular claims by race/ethnicity

Initial regular claims by Veterans status

Initial regular claims by disability status